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Why a downtown music garden will be 'a jewel for Modesto'

The new music garden will be nestled in a pocket park next to the Gallo Center in downtown Modesto.

MODESTO, Calif. — On the corner of 11th and I Streets in Modesto, a project is underway that Phil Trompetter hopes can be a small light, even on someone’s darkest day.

Trompetter, a former president for the Modesto Rotary Club, and the rest of his team have been refining the details on the project for the past two years, which is known as the Centennial Music Garden.

The music garden is a collection of seven percussive instruments, including the Tutti, Emperor Chimes, three Cajon Drums, Hand Pipes, and Babel Drum. All the instruments will find a home in the pocket park near the Gallo Center in downtown Modesto.

“I think like most other communities there are sort of these invisible boundaries that people don’t cross, and lives don’t intersect,” Trompetter said. “So, we wanted a place in downtown where I think almost everybody in the community comes.”

Trompetter hopes the garden will become a community gathering place, one where people can have a lunch, meet friends, bring their kids, or even take a small break after a stressful day at the courthouse. The rotary club started the project back in 2018 and saw it as great marker for their 100th anniversary as a club and as a gift to Modesto. 

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“I just think its going to be a very inviting and special place that Modesto’s going to fall in love with,” Trompetter said.

There’s no experience required when it comes to playing these instruments. Trompetter said each chime, drum, and pipe are tuned to harmonize together with nearly any note someone plays. 

He hopes that the music garden will bring visitors into downtown Modesto and generate some “positive play” for the city as they post pictures online of themselves enjoying it.

Potential issues from the homeless population or with vandalism wasn’t a big concern. Trompetter said that the instruments can withstand any vandalism and could be repaired, if needed. With all the traffic the area gets from people and vehicles, he doesn’t think the garden will see any significant problem.

“I think, like any property, the more you get good people out in a park area, the more people that are just looking to make trouble… they’ll go somewhere else,” Trompetter said.

While the project was meant to celebrate their 100th anniversary as a club, contractor issues delayed the originally planned completion date. Afterward, concrete availability caused another delay.

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Despite a few a setbacks, the intent is to get the music garden completed during the club’s 100th year. Provided everything goes to plan, Trompetter said that could mean the project gets finished by mid-November.

The project comes with a $250,000 price tag. Trompetter only second-guessed the project in the midst of an unprecedented 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that some people were out of work and the club was spending $250,000 on a music garden. However, he said the club made sure they were able to take care of those needing help and decided to press forward with the project.

“We just thought, in the long run, this is going to be a such a jewel for Modesto, in terms of beautification and in terms of breaking down barriers that are in this community that we wanted to go forward,” Trompetter said.

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